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2009 Providence Festival of Trees

Elegantly decorated holiday trees by local designers highlight Providence Hospital's Festival of Trees, a fundraiser for the Providence Community Health Foundation.

The 18th annual event will be held Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6 at the Medford National Guard Armory, 1701 S. Pacific Highway. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

Designers from across the Rogue Valley decorate trees based on themes, such as Disney, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, local wineries, fairies, the North Pole and others. They also create decorations such as tabletop trees and wreaths.

"Something for everybody, for all ages" is the predominant theme this year, says Jodi Barnard, executive director of the Providence Community Health Foundation.

Visitors can expect to see about 35 large decorated trees, 21 tabletop trees, five fireplace mantels, three door displays and numerous mini-trees and wreaths. A sleigh overflowing with toys, new last year, will be back.

Santa Claus will be there and for $5 visitors can have a photo taken with him. The photo is free for those with their own camera.

Each year the trees and decorations are sold at auction, then stay in place for a three-day exhibit.

Evening hours on Saturday will be new this year, and there will be a concert at no extra charge. The Siskiyou Violins will play between 6 and 8 p.m.

Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors over 60 and children aged 2 to 12. Children 2 and under get in free. Prices have remained unchanged for several years.

There will be musical entertainment, food concessions and a holiday store. Food has been upgraded this year, Barnard notes, and will include soups, salads and sandwiches.

The festival will be open one other evening, Friday, for a private showing called "An Evening of Giving." It is designed to accommodate those who might not be able to afford the festival admission price. About 800 people are expected. Organizers selected local, family-focused nonprofit organizations and asked them to distribute tickets. Those organizations included Kids Unlimited, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Child's Nurturing Center, Maslow Project, Hearts With a Mission and Community Works.

Folks attending the festival can buy a Christmas tree at the same time. Southern Oregon Nursery and the Boy Scouts will sell trees in a tent outside the armory. Part of the proceeds will go to Providence.

The Festival of Trees has raised nearly $5 million for Providence Medford Medical Center equipment and programs since it began in 1992.

For the second year, proceeds will benefit the Leila J. Eisenstein Breast Center at the hospital. This year they will help purchase a Dilon camera, a state-of-the-art imaging device for the early detection of breast cancer.

"The Dilon camera yields a fundamentally different approach to breast cancer diagnosis with its breast-specific gamma imaging," the festival brochure explains. "It doesn't just identify how the breast appears different from surrounding breast tissue with cancer — like with digital mammography or ultrasound — it also records how the breast functions and the metabolic activity. This distinction can be crucial for allaying the fears of women with a family history of breast cancer."

The new technology is substantially less expensive than traditional imaging technologies such as MRI. Without insurance, breast-specific gamma imaging costs about $777, compared with more than $2,000 for an MRI, the brochure adds.

Call the foundation at 732-6766 for more information.

Cleve Twitchell is a retired Mail Tribune editor and columnist. E-mail him at clevelinda@msn.com.

Santa hangs out with some of his reindeer on a tree called 'Merry Quackmas' at the 2008 Festival of Trees. - Jim Craven